Irvin Smith’s answer is simple.
“I liked what I was doing. I like helping people,” Smith said as he explained why he continued to work for the Horry County Department of Social Services long enough to set an Horry County record.
After 47 years and seven months with the department, Smith is the longest serving employee ever in this county.
Smith said he didn’t spend his life or even his college days aspiring to work with DSS. Instead he was about to be married and he just needed a job.
He was working at the IGA in the office and later as a cashier when he met Genevieve, his wife-to-be, who was also an IGA cashier.
They married Dec. 23, 1973; he began his employment with DSS Jan. 11, 1974.
He’s been there ever since. Actually, he said, he didn’t plan to stay that long. It just happened. He did plan to stay married to Genevieve that long, and that’s happened too. The couple has two children.
Smith raises his hand and snaps his fingers as he explains that, first, one year was gone, then it was 10 years and before he knew it, it was 47.
Recently, he battled pneumonia in the hospital where he spent five days before being diagnosed.
When he recovered he thought about going back to work, but then said to himself, “I’m not doing it. I’ve had enough.”
To mark the occasion, the Conway native’s fellow DSS workers held a drive-by salute in the North Conway Baptist Church parking lot, and Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy presented him with a proclamation declaring the day Irvin Smith Day.
Actually, Smith said the event turned into a little more of a meet and greet than a drive-by. People drove up, stopped, got out and a lot of reminiscing followed.
North Conway Baptist has been the Smiths’ home church since 1963 and Smith once served as a deacon. He’s always let the Lord lead him.
“I’m not caring too much about the record as I enjoyed helping people,” he said. “The Good Lord put me there and He always said He’ll let me know when it’s time to leave. I just felt like it’s time to get out.”
As he was cleaning out his desk, Smith found a card from a former client that said, “Mr. Smith, Thank you for your service. Without you I wouldn’t have eaten today.”
In addition to helping people Smith said he’s gotten to meet a lot of great people.
Actually Blain Bellamy is one of the people he met working at DSS because she worked there before she headed to law school, and after she graduated she continued as the lawyer for DSS.
He says he doesn’t know why she offered the proclamation for his retirement.
“Just took pity on me I reckon,” he said.
Smith began his lengthy employment with DSS as a public assistant tech I. He served in that position for eight years when he was promoted to supervisor for economic services, the job he performed for the rest of his career. He worked in Myrtle Beach and Loris for several years, but has done most of his supervising in the Conway office.
“It was a challenge because no job is perfect, but I made it through. I had some highs and lows,” he said.
Smith graduated from Conway High School and studied at Coastal Carolina University when it offered only two years of classes. He finished his business administration degree at the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus.
As for why he stayed so long, he said, “It’s not the money. That’s for darn sure.”
But he concedes that DSS has good benefits and, again he liked helping people and especially enjoyed his relationship with his fellow employees.
Even though he’s retiring, Smith doesn’t plan to stop helping people.
He serves now as president of Churches Assisting People (CAP) and points out that CAP will celebrate its anniversary Sept. 18 at Thompson Farm, 100 Brickyard Plantation.
The event will include hot dogs, giveaways and information about the nonprofit group.
During his retirement, he will stay busy overseeing some rental property that he owns. He doesn’t necessarily have travel on his to-do list, but says he has always wanted to go to South Dakota to see the monument dedicated to the famous Indian Geronimo.
Smith never let working with troubled people overwhelm him.
“You can’t do everything. You can’t be everything to everybody, but you can be what you can be. The biggest thing I’ve got to do now is relax and enjoy retirement. I might have to go back to work, I don’t know,” he said.